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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGeneralOversaturation of the Web/Flash Game Market?
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Author Topic: Oversaturation of the Web/Flash Game Market?  (Read 5245 times)
ChrisFranklin
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« on: July 02, 2007, 09:57:30 AM »

Sorry if this is old; I did a search but nothing came up.  Anyhow, this is a slightly depressing article about a designer who set out to create a generic DotA/Defense Game clone and see how much money he could squeeze out of it.  Unfortunately, he was pretty successful.

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In 3 weeks, I was able to create a game that was popular enough to generate a generous sponsorship, and a long-term revenue stream from in-game ads.

So the experiment was a huge success… but at the same time… the findings are disturbing to me.

The author makes comparisons to the glut of games the Atari 2600 was faced with late in its lifespan.  He suspects that this torrential downpour of cheap clones will serve to ultimately drive consumers away from portal sites, and that this will only harm small studios and publishers when the revenue streams go belly-up. 

I'm torn on this issue.  For one thing, there's a big difference between a huge mass of crappy knockoffs swarming a single platform that only has a single delivery system, and a mass of crappy knockoffs swarming a single delivery system for a platform with a multitude of them.  Even if portals shriveled up and died due to over saturation, I wouldn't call casual gaming dead in the water.
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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2007, 09:57:56 AM »

At least it's Tower Defense and not a Match-3.
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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2007, 10:13:13 AM »

At least it's Tower Defense and not a Match-3.
BRB making a match3 defense game.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 10:15:13 AM by Radix » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2007, 10:19:00 AM »

Damn...

So maybe ripping off or cloning some successful game is not a bad idea to make some quick cash. Maybe it's unethical to do so but hey, gotta pay the bills XD

Just kidding... I think so.
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2007, 10:50:17 AM »

That's interesting.  I saw an old documentary on youtube (it's deleted now) that covered the company Imagic directly before the game industry crashed.  At the time, the industry looked like there was no limit as to how high it could go.  Here's a mirror if you're interested:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Anyway, as I watched, I saw some very close talk and ideas in Imagic and the industry at the time as now.  Listen to the language he uses.  He talks almost purely about the money the company's going to make, and not so much about how fun or interesting the game will be.  In fact, he specifically says that they had ideas for other games, but they won't make them.  The reason, he states, is because if you take a given space shooter game, and a given game of another genre, the space shooter game will sell better.  So they made Atlantis, which is a space shooter game.

Now, I believe back during that time, the market was mostly casual.  Games like Pacman had all kinds of people, young and old, playing.  But the companies found certain genres that sold more than others, so they abandoned the variety in exchange for what they felt would be higher profits... and there were higher profits.  But it reached a point where that turned on a dime.  The casual players saw nothing but space shooters on the shelves with no way to know if one was different than the other.  They abandoned the industry, and the industry was severely hurt.  The hardcore gamers, like some of us, stuck in there, but we're in the minority of the potential game market.

EDIT:
If you watch those videos, keep an eye out for the Donkey Kong clone that never was released!
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 11:12:04 AM by sega » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2007, 11:11:34 AM »

The market is really, really different from the crash; we have so many more revenue streams.

I think at some future point (if not already) the games industry will split into a lot of different markets, like the movie industry has. Nobody ever says there will be a "death of movies" even though there are some really terrible stinkers getting foisted upon unsuspecting (and angry) customers every summer.

Of course, individual markets there live and die. You don't see many blaxploitation or musical films in the US industry, but musicals are huge in India.

Are "cynical casual"/"casualspolitation" (match-3, Tower Defense) games likely to encounter a crash? Sure. But that won't affect the rest of the industry.
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sega
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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2007, 11:16:22 AM »

The market is really, really different from the crash; we have so many more revenue streams.
...
Are "cynical casual" (match-3, Tower Defense) games likely to encounter a crash? Sure. But that won't affect the rest of the industry.

I definitely agree.  But I was thinking more in terms of these portals, where it's built specifically to be a bubble.  Inside that bubble are mostly casual players.  I do feel that bubble has a chance to pop just as the game industry crashed in the 80s.  The hardcore gamers are the minority there.

The portals won't die though.  They'll be forced to adapt or die.  I imagine they'll choose "adapt".
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 11:18:27 AM by sega » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2007, 05:47:18 PM »

At least it's Tower Defense and not a Match-3.
BRB making a match3 defense game.
Isn't that what Zuma is?
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2007, 05:49:07 PM »

That's interesting.  I saw an old documentary on youtube (it's deleted now) that covered the company Imagic directly before the game industry crashed.  At the time, the industry looked like there was no limit as to how high it could go.  Here's a mirror if you're interested:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Anyway, as I watched, I saw some very close talk and ideas in Imagic and the industry at the time as now.  Listen to the language he uses.  He talks almost purely about the money the company's going to make, and not so much about how fun or interesting the game will be.  In fact, he specifically says that they had ideas for other games, but they won't make them.  The reason, he states, is because if you take a given space shooter game, and a given game of another genre, the space shooter game will sell better.  So they made Atlantis, which is a space shooter game.

Now, I believe back during that time, the market was mostly casual.  Games like Pacman had all kinds of people, young and old, playing.  But the companies found certain genres that sold more than others, so they abandoned the variety in exchange for what they felt would be higher profits... and there were higher profits.  But it reached a point where that turned on a dime.  The casual players saw nothing but space shooters on the shelves with no way to know if one was different than the other.  They abandoned the industry, and the industry was severely hurt.  The hardcore gamers, like some of us, stuck in there, but we're in the minority of the potential game market.

EDIT:
If you watch those videos, keep an eye out for the Donkey Kong clone that never was released!
To be honest Imagic was not the worst company, they actually released some of the most original games for the VCS and intellivision (Fathom, riddle of the sphinx,etc...)
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2007, 06:17:56 PM »

Someone else who heard of Fathom?? I love that game, it's one of my top games of all time. I like it so much I once wrote like 3 pages about it in my LiveJournal.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2007, 06:20:50 PM by rinkuhero » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2007, 06:19:55 PM »

Oh, and about this topic:

I think *all* genres go into and out of favor. Adventure games aren't very popular now  but they used to make the most money of any genre of PC game. Same with dungeon crawlers. Platformers no longer do as well as they once did, although they aren't quite dead. Same with shmups. The same will happen to match-3's and DoTA defense / tower defense games, and it will even happen with FPS games and RTS games. I can't think of a genre that has maintained a consistent level of popularity over the last three decades, they all followed rise and fall patterns.

I don't think it's only a matter of making money either, developers tend to make games similar to games that they enjoy. People back in the NES days created so many platformers not only because platformers sold well, but because they are fun.
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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2007, 06:39:37 PM »

Okay a few comments on the Imagic video after I watched it:

First thanks for posting that it was very interesting.
-Of course the guy talks about money, but he's running a business, I see nothing wrong with that. When you run a business you can't afford to not be rentable. Without the business aspect the wonder coders wouldn't be working on anything and we wouldn't be here talking about indie gaming.Actually the best software companies were done by a good combination between business sensible people and creative artists. I think Imagic was among the good ones, just look at their games they were probably the most original in that field. Imagic was certainly not the company that crashed the industry of 1983.
Anyway i think it's true that (toward the end of the video) they went too much into the competition race instead of continuing doing nice games for fun, that type of behaviours indeed is  clearly an "industry killer". And when you're in the creative entertainement business, going to the public stock market is never a good idea.
-Check out the enormous amount of work the pixel guy had to do Tongue
-The donkey kong game was released, it's "beauty and the beast" for intellivision
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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2007, 01:03:27 AM »

I'm watching that Imagic video now -- it's interesting that the developers got royalties for their games back then (only 2%, but still). Today developers don't get any royalties I believe, which is less of an incentive to make the game good and more of an incentive to just put in the hours.
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« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2007, 01:11:35 AM »

Wow, they actually manually placed those stickers on the carts by hand, on a conveyor belt... manually put the chips in too.
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« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2007, 01:37:32 AM »

Oh, and my theory about the film's emphasis on money was that the documentary seems to have been focused on that aspect of things; they probably took a lot of footage and edited the parts that were most interesting from the business standpoint (because the film wasn't designed for people interested in games, because mainly kids played games back then). Editing is fairly powerful, so I don't think saying that Imagic was only focused on making money is fair to them considering we don't know what parts were cut out and how it was selected.
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sega
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« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2007, 01:53:18 AM »

To be honest Imagic was not the worst company, they actually released some of the most original games for the VCS and intellivision (Fathom, riddle of the sphinx,etc...)
Oh yeah, they definitely were not the worst.  I don't want to single Imagic out, but they were the subject of a documentary that represented the kind of thinking going on in the industry at the time.  If I could find documentaries of other companies, I'd post those instead.  Imagine how other companies talked, if Imagic wasn't that bad.

-Of course the guy talks about money, but he's running a business, I see nothing wrong with that.

My point wasn't just that he talked about money.  I'm not as naive as you implied.  The point was that he viewed the industry as a money machine, where you insert space shooter, and out comes money.  There was no talk of keeping a step ahead of the competition, or bringing something new to the table.  And maybe plenty of people at Imagic didn't think that way, but it was that kind of thinking that killed the industry.  It wasn't just his idea.  It was the kind of thinking going on all over the place.  It was the industry's fuel for development.  They put all of their eggs in one basket, and went down because of it.

Once again, my point wasn't to dropkick Imagic.  I just felt what was coming out of that particular guy's mouth really represented the kind of poisonous thinking going on at that time.

-The donkey kong game was released, it's "beauty and the beast" for intellivision

Ah!  Thanks!  I'll check it out.

I'm watching that Imagic video now -- it's interesting that the developers got royalties for their games back then (only 2%, but still). Today developers don't get any royalties I believe, which is less of an incentive to make the game good and more of an incentive to just put in the hours.

Definitely.  They also used designer/developer name recognition back then more than now, and I feel that's almost a bigger loss than financial gains.  Right now, we have a small number of superstar designers who, as well known as they are in the industry, don't get credit on the box.  The publishers want all of the power.  They can keep the IP, but they can't necessarily keep the designer.  So they build recognition purely of the IP.  You almost never see a game director/designer's name in advertisements for the game, or on the box like movies get.

I think it's a shame.  I feel makes the games less personal, and weakens the connection between the player and the game.  For instance, if someone's familiar with a director of a movie, they'll recognize pieces of that person in the creation, and feel a closer bond to both the creation and the creator.  But in games, the publisher wants all the credit for those pieces.  And they want you to buy from them again, hoping to experience those pieces again.  If the director leaves to join another company, most gamers will never know the sequel isn't being done by him.  Giving that power to the director/designer is not something most companies want to give up.

I wish these things would change, but at the moment, doing an indie game is the only place where those things can be set right.

EDIT:
Oh, and my theory about the film's emphasis on money was that the documentary seems to have been focused on that aspect of things; they probably took a lot of footage and edited the parts that were most interesting from the business standpoint

Good point.  I wish there were more documentaries done back then to see a better, fuller picture of what people were thinking.  It came and went so fast, not many people thought of documenting it I guess.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2007, 01:55:24 AM by sega » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2007, 09:28:26 AM »

The current bubble the free webgame market faces is that while it seems there are many sources of income there is really only one: advertising.  It's all leveraged on advertising dollars.

Sure, right now you can make $8,000 a month mixing adwords, text links, banners, etc.  But all it takes is a "correction" in the current over-valuation of traffic and the advertising dollars will dry up almost overnight.

So by all means get into the ad sponsored market but (like the casual games industry in general) don't expect the gravy train to last forever.  At some point that revenue source is going to die and you'll need a backup plan that doesn't involve converting your former free users to buyers.
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« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2007, 11:46:33 AM »

Is anybody else here unemployed and getting ideas? :D
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« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2007, 01:08:49 PM »

I think browser games supported by ads will be around for awhile; from what I've heard each year for the past few years downloadable games have become less popular than browser games.

And I can understand that: it's much, much easier to just go to a website and play than to download a game, install it, and run it; the more steps you cut out, the more likely someone will try it out: if I want to play a round of Warning Forever, I have to find the game's folder in my Program Files folder, dig through it looking for the .exe, and run; If I want to play a round of one of Orisinal's games, I just go to orisinal.com and click.

That said I don't think Flash 9 is that great of a development environment, maybe once they add hardware acceleration it'd be worth trying out. It's also super-expensive (700$ for a license?!).
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« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2007, 06:26:46 AM »

Is anybody else here unemployed and getting ideas? :D
As much as we've had discussions previously about the profit vs. fun motive, I'm going to come down strongly on the side of "profit" when it involves you not being able to eat.
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